Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Don't call 'em dirty. Ok, call 'em dirty — but only if you call 'em sweet too. The Hot Rollers play scrappy garage rock with plenty of energy and a reputation for in-yer-face live shows that feature themed costumes (from wedding dresses to mod swingers) and a consort of on-stage go-go dancers (the Rollettes). But theatrics can only get you so far. Ultimately, the Hot Rollers' songs need to stand on their own, especially on CD without the benefit of the band's well-honed visuals.

The Hot Rollers deliver the goods on debut Got Your Number {Sweaty Betty}. Chief songwriter Lori Campion plays a mean guitar and sings like a Catholic school girl who's just chain-smoked her first pack of Winstons behind the gym. Kirsten Ballweg handles the bass with a Bill Wyman-style detached panache (Ballweg is also a killer Farfisa player). Drummer Heidi Jessup keeps it simple and strong the way a garage drummer oughta. The Hot Rollers work well together; their four-chord minor-key stompers are plenty catchy, and they rant and rave in all the right places.

The production is appropriately lo-fi given the band's devotion to garage rock, but at times the record sounds a little too clean: I'd have liked to hear fuzzier guitars, buried vocals, and washy, distorted drums. Of course, not every garage band needs to sound like the Gories, but the clarity of the production on Got Your Number sometimes works against the dirty content of the songs themselves.

Lyrically, the Hot Rollers are cutting and catty, but Campion always delivers her vocals with a smile — even when she's singing about trashing your room or kicking you to the curb. From the get-go, most of the songs are kiss-offs to various deadbeat boyfriends. Lead-off track "You Don't Do It" hurls a barrage insults like "When you're around/I want you to go away," and the classic "Get your fingers/Away from my socket." The CD takes off from there: along the way, prostitutes, ice princesses and man-stealing tramps all get skewered. The Hot Rollers are not a band you want to cross.

That's not to say the CD has a negative vibe. The band's tongue is clearly in its cheek throughout their tantrums. For proof, look no further than the Hot Rollers' choice of covers. I've never heard any garage band tackle Billy Joel's "You May Be Right," which the Hot Rollers batter into the skuzzy slab of rock power that Billy probably thought it was all along. Drummer Jessup is the secret weapon here. Her steady drumming and perfectly-timed kick action sell the song. And the hidden track cover of Young MC's "Bust A Move" {technically two covers, since the first take dissolves into laughter} is a hilarious surprise ending to a wild, trashy, hook-filled ride.

The Hot Rollers' Got Your Number is a promising debut. And the next time they play at a venue near you? Ok smartie, go to their party!